It’s been a while since I’ve actually sat down and written anything. Too long, really. I am coming up on two years since the night I lost my husband, two years since the night when everything changed.
I was at home with our thirteen month old daughter waiting for my husband to come home with the pizza he went to pick up for us. It was a Friday and I had had a very long week home alone with a very fussy baby. I was a stay-at-home mom and my husband had been away on a business trip. He had gotten home from the trip on that Wednesday night and come Friday, after a full week of seemingly not stop fussiness, I was tired and done and I didn’t feel like cooking. So when he got home from work, he offered to go out and pick up dinner so I wouldn’t have to cook. He even offered to take the little one with him on the drive just to give me a short, albeit much needed, break. Normally I would have happily accepted the break, but she had been just too fussy and I thought both of them would be miserable in the car. So she stayed home with me and my husband went off on his own.
Before he left the house he said that he wanted to sit down and have a serious conversation about moving when he got back with the pizza. We never had that conversation.
I called Matt to ask him to pick up milk on his way home. He didn’t answer so I sent him a text hoping he would see either my missed call or the text so he wouldn’t have to run back out later. A few minutes later I called again… and again. Matt was always on time. He was the kind of guy who would call me to tell me he’ll be 5 minutes late because he needs to stop for gas. So after 15 minutes I got worried, but I patiently waited. After half an hour I was very worried. By that time I had decided that he had been in a car accident and I just had to wait for him to call me and tell me what’s going on. By 45 minutes I decided that the car accident was bad and he was hurt and couldn’t call me, or else he would have already, and I started to panick. I tried to wait a full hour before calling the police to try to find him but I couldn’t make it to the full hour. I called the state police and told them that I think my husband had been in a car accident because he’s almost an hour late getting home. The officer asked me where I think it happened and I told him and he said he would have someone from the local PD call me. I tried to wait until they called. I tried so hard. I think I waited 3 minutes before I couldn’t take it and I called the department myself. The officer who answered told me that my husband had been in an accident and that two state troopers were on their way to my house and they would explain everything.
They don’t send cops to your home to tell you everything is alright.
The words, “what happened” got stuck in my throat at first, but I swallowed them. In that moment I knew that nothing good would come from asking this question he can’t answer. And I knew that if I asked, I would know. An eternity went by waiting for those officers. I stood at the porch door watching and begging Matt to just come home. Each time I saw headlights I would feel hope, and each time it wasn’t him I would feel the rush of dread. I remember saying over and over, “Just come home! Fuck the pizza, just come home!”
And then I saw two police cruisers pull up. Holding my baby in my arms, I ran outside and greeted them at the door, two officers: a man and a woman. I shook the officers hand and I asked him what happened. He asked if we could go inside. It was freezing out so I invited them in. When we got to the living room I asked again, “what happened?” And he said, “why don’t you have a seat.”
I don’t really know what happened next because with those words I knew. I just knew. I sat down and I looked at him and I made him tell me. I remember telling him no over and over. I was begging him to tell me he was wrong, just kidding, this is some terrible cruel joke! I hoped that Matt would be in the back of the squad car for doing something stupid, some stupid thing that he would never do because he didn’t do stupid things like that. I needed something else to be true, anything else, just as long as he was alive. Just as long as he would come home.
But instead, these officers came to my home to tell me that my husband would never walk through that door again. They told me he had a cardiac event behind the wheel, he was passed out when the accident happened.
My memory of the rest of that night is a blur, I can remember bits and pieces but nothing in detail. I remember calling my parents and telling them what happened. They got in the car and drove to my house immediately. After they arrived I had to make the hardest phone call of my life. I had to call his mom and tell her. My parents offered to make the call for me but I said no, it had to be me.
I remember going to bed. I was in a fog, I was bewildered. And as I was climbing into bed I got a phone call from Life Choice, an organization that handles the procurement of organ and tissue donations. My husband was a registered organ donor. He and I both felt strongly about donation since I had fairly recently donated my own kidney to him. He was a transplant patient and I am a living donor. So when they called and asked me the many questions they had, I told them to take it all, take everything they can. I didn’t know about funeral plans or anything like that (I was only 29 and I never thought this would happen!) so I told her to take everything and we can figure out those plans afterwards. But there was a part of me that held out hope that it wasn’t really Matt. That they were wrong.
I cried myself to sleep that night. I talked to Matt and told him how much I love him and need him and want him to come home. I laid in the bed like I did when he would lay next to me and imagined him there holding me while I cried myself to sleep. I found myself doing that quite a lot over the first year. I liked to imagine him holding me, it just made everything feel easier, even if it wasn’t real.
Over time, though, memory fades. I have forgotten what it felt like when he held me. I have forgotten many of the little things. I can’t imagine him the same way I used to. The image is more vague, his words are harder to string together in my head, I find it harder and harder to know what he would have done or said in a given situation. I don’t live in the same house anymore so I can’t look around and see the memories in my space, because he never lived in this space. That’s the hardest part of all of this – losing the memories. It’s as if that last pieces I have of him are slowly being chipped away. I feel like I keep losing him, bit by bit.
But time has continued. Our daughter gets older and life has to keep moving. Time won’t pause for me, it won’t stop and wait until I’m ready to move with it. Time will just keep moving all the same, whether I go with it or just watch it pass me by. Sometimes I have felt like time can be an enemy, but I have realized that time is neither friend nor foe. Time just is. It doesn’t care about me. It is not kind or cruel, it is indifferent. It does not care.
Two years have passed by since the love of my life died. He was 38, kind, sweet, smart, sarcastic and witty, and so loving. He wasn’t always the easiest person to be married to because he was sick with kidney disease. I wasn’t always the easiest person to be married to because I often failed to see things in perspective. But between his dialysis and hospital visits and transplant and my hard headed, forgetful, insecure ways – we were happy. He was my other half. At the end of the day, no matter what, I had him. As long as we always made the effort we would always be good. I knew that. And I think he knew that, too. Because beyond anything else, we loved each other. We loved each other enough to always work to fix the things that weren’t working. We loved each other enough to always work to make each other happy.
It has been two years since the love of my life came home, and I can tell you this: The only thing we have is time. The only thing that matters is what we do with our time. And the only thing that remains of us after we die are the impressions we have made in the hearts of the living.
Use your time wisely. Hug your kids when you get home. Pick your wife a flower. Put a note in your husband’s jacket just to remind him how much he means to you. But more important than that, remember that time is fleeting. Go make a memory every chance you get. When you fight, fight honestly and fairly. Apologize when you’re wrong, go to bed angry when you’re too angry to keep talking… but never forget to say “I love you” and never forget how much you mean it. I would do anything to have another argument with my husband, or to ruin another home cooked dinner, or to worry about his health again. I would give anything if I could get those moments back… the ones I missed, the ones I’m never going to have.
One day you may wake up and find that you will have no more moments with the person you love, so use the moments you have wisely. You will gain more from giving in those moments than you ever will from expecting. And what happens if you wake up and find that time is up?